How Bartenders Make or Break Your Operation


Good bartenders are worth their weight in gold—literally. If drinks are measured accurately, taste “just right” and are served quickly and efficiently, you can count on a brisk business. Too often, though, you’ll find bartenders who are “in business” for themselves, pocketing a few dollars here and there, overpouring to their big tippers and giving away a few to their friends. To find a good bartender, look for honesty, personality and mechanics first. The candidate who’s memorized and can prepare the greatest variety of cocktails may not be the best person for the job. Better to have a recipe book handy than hire a mix-master who’s pocketing more than he’s selling.

Keeping Bartenders Honest

One way to guard against freebies is to delegate a manager to back-up bar service, especially during busy shifts. The management presence will not only keep the bartender honest, but also provide some extra help when the bar gets hopping. Teach that manager to pay close attention. Figure out what the regulars drink and who the bartender’s friends are. Conduct surprise audits of the bar’s cash drawer—to reveal any thievery. If the till should come out over what receipts indicate, you have a bartender in need of some additional training in cash handling or how to ring things up.

Most often, though, you’ll find only minor discrepancies. For instance, if the register says you’ve sold 22 shots of Jagermeister but there’s a whole bottle missing, you probably have a bartender with a heavy hand. The cost of too free a free pour can spell trouble for an operator’s bottom line.

The solution? Utilize pre-measured automatic dispensing systems and jiggers instead. Buy good quality shot glasses with pour lines marked on them. And monitor bartenders as much as possible. Finally, consider a camera system tied into the POS—you’ll be able to review what (if anything) the bartender was ringing up. Since you can’t be behind the bar at all times, perhaps a little help is in order!

The Bottom Line

What does that extra splash from your bartenders really cost? Probably not a whole lot if it’s just one drink, but figure the costs of 200 over-poured drinks a shift at a conservative 25 cents a splash. That’s $50 per shift, $100 per day— $36,500.00 per year!

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